Preparing Retail Apps for the Holiday Shopping Season
Retailers around the world have been working hard to make sure they have a successful holiday shopping season. From new storefronts to early promotions, retailers put in months of preparation to ensure they meet sales projections and outperform competitors. Now that shoppers are more likely to reach for their smartphones and tablets than log on to personal computers when they want to make a purchase, retailers need to put the same emphasis on perfecting their applications. In fact, Deloitte's 2017 Holiday Retail Survey found that 59 percent of respondents planned to use their smartphone for purchasing holiday items. To prepare apps for the influx of activity during the holiday season, retailers need to ask themselves a few key questions.
1. Can your app scale?
An application is considered scalable if its performance doesn’t suffer significantly as the volume of users or the load on the system increases.
To determine the volume an app should be able to handle during the peak of the holiday shopping season, retailers should figure out their maximum transaction rate during peak time and then estimate how many active users they could have at any given time during the season. From there, it’s important to load test until you have the appropriate level of load balancing to ensure the app won’t crash during peak times.
2. Does your app provide a quality experience?
Consumers have high expectations when it comes to app performance and experience. Lessons from the web show that a one-second slowdown in page load time can cost businesses a lot of money. Beyond that, 40 percent of people abandon a website if its pages take longer than three seconds to load. For mobile apps, users are even more demanding. To avoid missed sales this season, retailers need to test their apps’ performance before the shopping starts.
Quality is also based on the app’s layout and features. Retailers should make sure the app is easy to navigate and offers what consumers are looking for. For example, the National Retail Federation found that 63 percent of survey respondents would like to use more retailers’ online wish lists or registries for gift purchasing in the future. Making additions like this to an app can help improve the overall user experience and boost sales.
3. Can your app be updated easily?
During the holiday season, shoppers might let retailers know that they would prefer the app to have more features, or retailers might notice that users aren't taking advantage of an offer or feature like they should be. Therefore, it’s critical to be prepared for updates. For that, your developers must have the right tools and processes in place. The deployment process should be efficient so that once updates are made, they're out the door quickly.
Even more importantly, if the app fails or there are latency problems, developers need to be able to remediate the issue as fast as possible. Every second counts during the holiday shopping season. For every user who encounters a faulty page or every time an app fails, retailers lose sales.
The easier holiday shopping is for customers, the more loyal they become. Having a mobile app that users love because it’s easy to use, performs well and looks good will go a long way toward ending the season in the black instead of the red. If retailers can answer “yes” to the questions posed here, then they will be able to offer an app that goes the distance.
Dan Juengst is the principal technology evangelist of OutSystems, a low-code platform to visually develop your application, integrate with existing systems and add your own code when needed.